Interview with John Cage, 1978-12-20/1979-01-18
NamesMerce Cunningham Dance Company (Associated name)Cage, John (Interviewee)Vaughan, David, 1924- (Interviewer)
Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation Collection. Audio materials
Dates / OriginDate Created: 1978-12-20Date Created: 1978-12-27Date Created: 1979-01-18
Library locationsRodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded SoundShelf locator: *LTC-A 1440
TopicsAtlas, CharlesBehrman, DavidBoulez, Pierre, 1925- -- Correspondence -- Boulez, Pierre, 1925-2016. Correspondence. Selections. EnglishCage, JohnCage, John -- Cartridge musicCage, John -- Credo in usCage, John -- Four wallsCage, John -- Root of an unfocusCage, John -- Variationsno. 4no. 4
no. 4Cage, John -- Williams mixCunningham, MerceEvans, Richard BKirstein, Lincoln, 1907-1996Nancarrow, Conlon, 1912-1997 -- StudiesSatie, Erik, 1866-1925 -- SocrateSchaeffer, Pierre, 1910-1995 -- Symphonie pour un homme seulTudor, David, 1926-1996Tudor, David, 1926-1996 -- WeatheringsBlack Mountain College (Black Mountain, N.C.)Cornish College of the Arts (Seattle, Wash.)Merce Cunningham Dance CompanyCredo in us (Choreographic work : Cunningham and Erdman)Event (Choreographic work : Cunningham)Field dances (Choreographic work : Cunningham)Four walls (Choreographic work : Cunningham)Landrover (Choreographic work : Cunningham)Root of an unfocus (Choreographic work : Cunningham)Seasons (Choreographic work : Cunningham)Second hand (Choreographic work : Cunningham)Signals (Choreographic work : Cunningham)Sixteen dances for soloist and company of three (Choreographic work : Cunningham)Theater piece (Choreographic work : Cunningham)Music and danceModern dance music
NotesContent: David Vaughan interviews John Cage, probably in New York, New York, on December 20 and 27, 1978, and, January 18, 1979. This interview was created as research for David Vaughan's book, Merce Cunningham: Fifty years (New York, Aperture).Content: Title and dates provided by cataloger based on handwritten and typed notes on original containers and cassettes, and audition.Content: Handwritten note on original container and cassette no. 1: "David Vaughan: Interview with John Cage ; 20 December 1978". Typed and handwritten note on original container and cassette no. 2: "David Vaughan: Interview with John Cage ; 27 December 1978, concluded 18 January 1979". Typed and handwritten note on original container and cassette no. 3: "David Vaughan: Interview with John Cage ; 18 January 1979".Venue: Recorded in, New York, New York, 1978 December 20 and 27.Venue: Recorded in, New York, New York, 1979 January 18.Acquisition: Gift; Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation, 2011-2012.Citation/reference: Forms part of the Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation Collection.
Physical DescriptionAudiocassetteExtent: 3 audiocassettes (194 minutes total) : analogSound quality is mostly good to fair; the speakers are mostly audible but there are occasional background noises and voices, and recording interruptions to the interview.
DescriptionStreaming file 1, December 20, side a: John Cage speaks with David Vaughan on December 20, 1978 about meeting Merce Cunningham at Cornish College of the Arts in 1938 and being impressed by Cunningham's appetite for dance; Vaughan speaks about Cunningham's choreography while at Cornish under the tutelage of Bonnie Bird; Cage recalls teaching a class in composition to the dancers at Cornish; [very brief recording break]; they speak about several of Bird's works choreographed for the students in the Cornish dance department; Cage speaks about John Martin's review of Cunningham as a dancer in the Martha Graham Dance Company; Cage speaks about arriving to New York in 1942 and staying in Jean Erdman's apartment while Erdman and Cunningham performed at Bennington College; Cage briefly speaks about a record label recording of Credo in us (1942); [very brief recording break]; Cage speaks about Cunningham authoring the text of Credo in us; Cage speaks about baskets that Cunningham wove and never displayed publicly; [very brief recording break]; they briefly speak about Cunningham's drawings; Cage speaks about composing Credo in us for Cunningham and Erdman's dance of the same title, and, briefly, about composing for Totem ancestor (1942); they mention some of the other composers that Cunningham worked with in the early 1940's; in response to Vaughan's question, Cage briefly recalls the 1943 performance of Cunningham's In the name of the Holocaust (1943) and Shimmera (1943) at the Art Club of Chicago; Cage speaks about the independent composition process and the rhythmic based structure for Root of an unfocus (1944); they speak about the performances of Mysterious adventure (1945) and Sixteen dances [for soloist and company of three] (1951) that were performed on mixed bills with the Graham Company, and received an unfavorable reception from the audiences; Cage speaks more about the music for Sixteen dances; ends abruptly.
Streaming file 2, December 20, side b: John Cage continues to speak with David Vaughan on December 20, 1978 about Tossed as it is untroubled (1944) and how Cunningham found his titles from books; Cage speaks about how Cunningham's spontaneity in his writing as well as his dance steps; they continue to speak about the titles of Cunningham's works; Cage speaks about his composition for Four walls (1944) and not being at the original performance of it; Cage speaks about his unpublished compositions and Richard Bunger [Evans]'s interest in publishing them; Cage speaks about the manuscripts of the four dances that he composed for Hanya Holm; Vaughan mentions plans for an upcoming exhibit and how to incorporate Cage's work in it; they speak about Cunningham's first use of music by Erik Satie, Socrate (1919), for Idyllic song (1944); a possible second part for Idyllic song as being the duet in Suite [by chance? (1953)] in comparison with Second hand (1970), the work that eventually contained the other two movements of Idyllic song; the duet between Carolyn Brown and Cunningham in Second hand; they speak about Alexei Haieff and his composition for Princess Zondilda and her entourage (1946); Cage speaks about his idea for a project as editor for the magazine Possibilities, to examine divergent points of view between composers [Arnold] Schoenberg and [Igor] Stravinksky; Cage speaks about meeting Lincoln [Kirstein] through Virgil [Thomson] and they discuss Kirstein's views on dance; they speak about Cunningham's choreographic notes for Seasons (1947) as well as the concise nature of the sections of the work; they speak briefly about Cunningham teaching at the School of the American Ballet; Cage briefly speaks about playing piano for Cunningham's dance classes; Cage speaks about his personal relationship with Thomson; Cage speaks briefly about being introduced to Pierre Boulez, through Thomson, while visiting Paris [in 1949]; Cage tells an anecdote about Boulez and publishing his music; ends abruptly.
Streaming file 3, December 27, side a: John Cage speaks with David Vaughan on December 27, 1978 about his 1949 stay in Paris with Merce Cunningham and while there, recieving notification of his Guggenheim Fellowship; more on Paris, including locations they lived and artists they met; Cage tells an anecdote about meeting Alice Toklas; they briefly speak about the recording of Credo in us; Cage speaks about the one performance of Dromenon (1947) and his appreciation of this work; they speak about the early audiences for Cunningham's works, especially the response and support of visual artists; Cage speaks about the transition into larger theaters and appeal to broader audiences over time; Cage speaks about meeting David Tudor and tells an anecdote of Morton Feldman praising Tudor's piano abilities; Cage speaks about Tudor's playing of Ben Weber's music for Pool of darkness (1950); they list and briefly speak about the Cunningham works performed during the summer of 1948 at Black Mountain College; they list and briefly speak about the Cunningham works performed during the 1949 stay in Paris; Cage recalls writing the performance programs by hand in Paris; Cage tells an anecdote about Toklas' opinion of Root of an unfocus; Cage speaks about Cunningham performing in a dance by Sybil Shearer [Rondo, 1949?]; Cage tells an anecdote about the borrowed car they used for a Merce Cunningham Dance Company winter tour and the difficulties they encountered while driving; Cage speaks about Cunningham's passion for dance; they speak about changes in the audiences' reception of Cunningham's works; Cage speaks about the 1953 [Merce Cunningham Dance] Company performances at the Theater de lys including his additional role at the time as an administrator, the financial support they received, and the performance programs; Cage tells an anecdote about Viola Farber making a remark about Cunningham doing repair work on the studio roof; Cage tells an anecdote about arranging a Company tour in 1955-1956 that failed to materialize and attributing this experience to the success of the 1964 world tour; Cage describes a 1955 performance in New City, New York, that was impacted by a big storm; Cage speaks about organizing the early tours; they each tell anecdotes about eating while on tour; ends abruptly.
Streaming file 4, December 27 and January 18, side b: John Cage continues to speak with David Vaughan on December 27, 1978 about Sixteen dances [for soloist and a company of three] (1951); Cage speaks about fulfilling a commission for Sixteen dances by using chance operations; Cage compares Sixteen dances with Seasons (1947); they speak about the critics and audience reception of Sixteen dances; his composition for Sixteen dances; Cage speaks about George Balanchine's use of music in his choreography; they speak about a writing by Cage in Dance Observer magazine that praises Balanchine's Duo Concertant (1972), and Cage mentions his admiration of Apollo (1928); they compare the choreographic approaches of Cunningham and Balanchine; Cage speaks about how Cunningham's choreography differs from the Judson School choreographers in difficulty and virtuosity; they speak about reasons that Cage didn't compose the music for Les Noces (1952) and Collage (1952), commissioned for the Festival of the Creative Arts at Brandeis University by Leonard Bernstein in 1952; Cage speaks about the music for Collage being the first performance of a composition made for magnetic tape, Symphonie pour un homme seul (1950) by Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry; Cage speaks about the premiere of his tape music piece Williams mix (1952); they speak briefly about Suite by chance (1953); Vaughan speaks about the summer at Black Mountain College in 1953, in which Cunningham's works were not accompanied by Cage's compositions; they speak about the exception from that year, Solo suite in space and time (1953), which was accompanied by Cage's Music for piano, no. 1-20 (1952-1953); Cage speaks about Theater piece (1960), how it differed from the theater works at Black Mountain College, and its chance based scores; [recording break, ca. 33:52-33:56]; John Cage speaks with David Vaughan on January 18, 1979, about choosing the music for Crises (1960), Conlon Nancarrow's Rhythm studies for player piano (1950-1968); Cage speaks about traveling with David Tudor to meet Nancarrow in Mexico and receiving his material by mail before then; Cage speaks about his composition for Field dances (1963), Variations IV (1963); Cage tells an anecdote about Tudor and a performance of Field dances in Alabama; Cage tells an anecdote about a recording in London using a collage of records for Variations IV with Tudor; they briefly speak about Cross currents (1964) as it related to Cunningham's Events; Cage speaks about the impact of the video works on Cunningham's choreography; ends abruptly.
Streaming file 5, January 18, side a: Begins abruptly; John Cage continues to speak with David Vaughan on January 18, 1979; Vaughan speaks briefly about the movement of camera work by Charles Atlas; they speak about [Theater piece? (1960], especially the chance components in the music and choreography; Vaughan speaks about Aeon (1961) as a transition piece in that it was Cage's first use of live electronics; they speak about the instrumentation in the music for an Event in Vienna; [very brief recording break]; they speak about the music for Paired (1964), Cage's Duet for cymbal which is a form of Cartridge music (1960); Cage speaks about the multiple ways that Cartridge music was re-used with new instruments to accompany Cunningham's works in order to accomodate for touring; Cage speaks briefly about Variations V (1965), setting up the music for performances in the mid-1960's and his arthritis; they speak about the increasing use of electronic music as well as inviting musicians to join the [Merce Cunningham Dance] Company's tours; Cage speaks about recording his Double music (1941) and the democratic decision making among the musicians; Cage tells an anecdote about the one performance when he was unhappy with a musician; Cage speaks about the methods the musicians use to construct the Event performances and, as an example, describes the "horizontal" way the music for Landrover (1972) was composed by Cage, Tudor and Gordon Mumma; Cage describes his section in Landrover including the text by Joan Miró that he used; Cage describes Tudor's section of Landrover and compares with Tudor's composition for Exchange (1978), Weatherings; Cage speaks about the music for Signals (1970) as being an example of the "vertical" construction used in the music for Event performances; they speak briefly about Changing steps (1973) as another example of collaborative music; Vaughan asks Cage about the music for Atlas' video, Westbeth (1974), and Cage recalls it to be his Etcetera (1973); they briefly debate this; Cage describes the meetings with David Behrman and Tudor in order to select the additional composers for Event performances; Cage speaks about his interest in making decisions jointly and not wanting to be the musical director of the Company.
Type of ResourceSound recording
IdentifiersRLIN/OCLC: 913959228NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b20732848Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): dd17c4f0-b8f5-0133-c5ba-60f81dd2b63c
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